Hunter's hymn sheet

10th September 2004 at 01:00
Tom Hunter, the Scottish Executive's favourite entrepreneur, believes capitalists like himself have a duty to become more involved in education.

Now more of a key figure in the Executive's plans than ever, with this week's announcement on "schools for ambition" (see below), Mr Hunter says the private sector has a particular obligation to support disadvantaged youngsters - 20,000 "disaffected" leavers drop out each year - because it makes economic as well as social sense.

"The splendid isolationism of wealth, of the gated secure village that ignores the less fortunate, is a short-term, ill-fated stance to take," Mr Hunter declared. He called for an end to the lottery in which "children are born individuals but die as copies".

The local Cumnock lad made good was delivering the annual General Teaching Council for Scotland lecture in Edinburgh on Wednesday evening.

Mr Hunter has until now been largely associated with promoting enterprise education. But he has clearly widenened his horizons and, in an evangelical address, spoke particularly of the need to step up funding at the pre-school stages, working more closely with families as a whole.

He showed in his remarks that he is singing from the same hymn sheet as the Executive, ruling out any involvement in what he describes as the "random excellence" of initiatives such as the city academies being established south of the border. "There must be comprehensive excellence for all," Mr Hunter said.

In his own version of joined-up thinking, he said the best possible education for children must mean the best possible education for the educators. "A great teacher will touch lives for ever," according to Mr Hunter, whose sister is a teacher in East Ayrshire.

In a significant move during the summer, the foundation and Aberdeen University announced a joint pound;2.7 million venture - "teachers for a new era", which is billed as a trailblazer for a radical alternative approach to training primary teachers.

Working with six authorities in the north and east of Scotland, the intention is to deepen training, with four years at university followed by a two-year "clinical internship" which will combine induction and close monitoring by experienced teachers.

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